Mar 10 2022 - Jul 03 2022


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Edward Russell Thaxter Love’s First Dream

In 1878, twenty-two-year-old sculptor Edward Russell Thaxter set sail from Maine for Italy. Soon visitors to his workshop in Florence were hailing him as the rising genius of American sculpture. In 1880 the New York Times said breathlessly, “What Thaxter may succeed in doing in the maturity of his powers and experience remains to be seen.” But within a year Thaxter died of typhoid fever in Naples at just twenty-four. He left behind a final finished work, a ten-foot plaster model called Love’s First Dream, representing a young woman caught up in a net by a mischievous Cupid. After Thaxter’s early death, his devoted mother had Love’s First Dream carved, at half-size, in marble and exhibited it across the US. Soon copies were being made in Florence for eager American collectors. In 1916 the Wadsworth received a version from the prominent local collector Ruth Munsill, who lived on Hartford’s Wethersfield Avenue. Love’s First Dream has recently been conserved, and new research sheds fresh light on what one contemporary American critic called “a masterpiece of American sculpture.”


Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
600 Main Street Hartford, CT 06103


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